Rita Harmon Service Award

Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award

Following Rita’s death, United Way established the Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award to recognize individuals and couples who show a commitment of service to others, determination and persistence in fulfilling volunteer obligations, loyalty and integrity, are actively involved in community activities in addition to United Way, and are dedicated to helping people on the South Plains. The first Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award was awarded to Rita posthumously in January 1994 at the Annual Meeting.

In 1992, Rita told the Loaned Executive volunteers, “In our grandfather’s day, when a family was stricken with disaster, neighbors banded together to bring in the crops, rebuild the house, or distribute food from the pantries. As society has changed, the way in which we help our neighbors has also had to change. Oftentimes, in our community, we don’t know our neighbors. Those in need are faceless to us, but the people are real, their needs are real, and our desire to offer something of ourselves to help those in need is very real.”

Her words are still true today. Perhaps we’ve seen it more in the past year than at any other time in recent history.

Our need for each other is great. United Way is the connecting force that brings neighbors together to meet needs. Rita understood this, and like so many before her and after her, led United Way to fulfill this commitment of Giving ∙ People ∙ Hope.

Rita Harmon Volunteer Service Award Winners

2022 Margie Olivarez

2021 David Alderson

2020 Robert Taylor

2019 Brad and Carla Moran

2018 Norval Pollard

2017 Douglas and Kay Sanford

2016 Betty Dotts

2015 Sharon and Byrnie Bass

2014 Matt Bumstead

2013 Greg Jones

2012 Adrienne Cozart

2011 Jay Eagan

2010 Harold Jones

2009 John Elliott

2008 Gilbreath Family

2007 Irasema Velasquez

2006 Betty and Jim Lowder

2005 Kevin McMahon

2004 Vernita Woods-Holmes

2003 Dr. Robert Ewalt

2002 David Seim 

2001 Dr. Robert Stripling

2000 Betty Anderson

1999 Alan Henry

1998 Jack and Mary Nell Strong

1997 J. W. Spears

1996 B.C. “Peck” McMinn

1995 Marjorie Kastman

1994 J.C. Chambers

1993 Rita Harmon

Rita Harmon

Rita Harmon
            Rita Harmon, Board Chair 1992-1993

United Way is built on the strength of its volunteers. More than 800 volunteers participate in United Way programs annually, helping with the Annual Campaign, our Community Partner review process, United We Read, and other opportunities. Many volunteers stay involved for years, as was the case with Rita Harmon.

Rita's Commitment to United Way

Rita was a former Assistant City Manager for the City of Lubbock. She began volunteering in the Fund Distribution Division which reviewed agency allocation requests, a process now managed by the Community Impact Committee. Volunteers for the Fund Distribution Division reviewed agency requests, toured the agencies, and reviewed any emergency funding requests. Rita was fully committed to ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the process. As a donor herself, she valued United Way’s commitment to making sure gifts were used appropriately to achieve measurable outcomes.

In January 1992, Rita became the third woman to serve as United Way Board Chair, proceeded by Kay Houser in 1982 and Marjorie Kastman in 1986. One of her first tasks was to lead a search for a new CEO to follow Dr. Sam Richards. The board hired current President and CEO, Glenn Cochran in May 1992. Just a few months prior, Rita was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Despite her diagnosis, Rita continued in her role as board chair until her death on July 12, 1993. Jerry Schaffner who stepped in to chair the board following Rita’s death wrote in United Way’s Fall 1993 newsletter, “You always knew you could count on Rita. She didn’t just make a decision; she made the right decision.”